Sinclair Broadcasting thinks they have the responsibility to do just that.
Television Station WPGH in Pittsburgh, owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, pulled a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ad this week. The station management did not return phone calls to news organizations requesting comment on the issue. Other stations in the market said they would continue to air the commercial as scheduled.
Kent Gates, a political adviser for Tim Burns, the Republican candidate who is the target of the pulled ad, says that it, "falsely claims Tim Burns supports a 23 percent national sales tax and wants to ship jobs overseas." Burns is running against Democrat Mark Critz in a special election last Tuesday, May 18, 2010, for the late John Murtha's seat. Some sources that are familiar with both the station and the Republican campaign claim that FactCheck supports the claims by the Burn’s campaign.
FactCheck also states that both sides are airing ads that are "chock full of false and misleading claims." But, of all the ads that are being aired and run in the market, only Sinclair pulled the Democratic supported commercial.
But, is the community best served by having the media determine what we see and what we don’t in a political campaign?
It is the voter that ultimately must decide what is important. To have a media outlet determine for the voter what is fact sets up the opportunity to have corporations choose what goes on the air based on a political point of view they may support. (While FactCheck, the website that Sinclair appears to have used to support their action, also said other commercials where wrong, yet, Sinclair didn’t withdraw those commercials. This indicates that the broadcaster took a position in the election.) FactCheck.org, as an example, doesn’t ask for commercials to be removed or force commercials off the air, they research the statements and provide supporting evidence for their conclusions. Voters can go to web sites like FactCheck for their own research. Additionally, it will help the voter decide who to vote for by knowing what outrageous claims are being made by candidates.
In the end, the collective intelligence of a well informed community about all sides of a political decision is better than one that is receiving filtered information. Sinclair Broadcasting didn’t serve their community in an open and fair way by refusing to air a commercial that didn’t support their own political position.
But, apparently, the voters saw through all of that. Mark Critz, the Democrat, won the election, not the candidate that Sinclair supported.